Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the United States.
I was a child when Dr. King was assassinated. His beliefs and portrayals of the United States were poignant and succinct at the time when he was part of the Civil Rights movement.
I have no right to address the feelings of the African American population of our country, I can’t say how it feels to be in the shoes of my fellow Americans although we are connected by our nationality and our citizenship.
What I can address are the feelings and the beliefs that I feel Dr. King was trying to impart on us many years ago. I believe he was someone who faced almost impossible odds when he became a part of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. I also believe he had no idea what our progress as a society would bring in the almost 55 years since his murder.
What I took from Dr. King was he believed that every person, regardless of race, should be allowed to follow his or her dreams and not be inhibited by any person or group. What I took from Dr. King was the belief that every person should be allowed to achieve their dreams and goals without the hinderance of a group or individuals because of their race.
Growing up in Alabama, I know that I saw, whether I realized it or not, that things weren’t equal. I also know that as an older person, I have a better idea of what is right and what is equal. I strive for that as a person, I also strive for that as a human being.
Dr. King spoke in his many speeches that we should all pull together regardless of our race or our upbringing. Somehow, I believe his message has been confused with privilege. I don’t think because you are white you should expect one thing and if you are black you should expect something else. What you should expect is to get exactly what you put into any pursuit you have. Dr. King, in my belief, was saying that we as Americans should ignore what we see on the outside and find what values are on the inside.
I’m sure that sounds very simplistic in the times we are living in right now, but I also believe what should be simple should be, simple.
I have listened and studied many of Dr. King’s speeches in my life and his non-violent approach to taking on the inequalities of the American way of life should be appreciated even more so today than in the 1960’s. I again, have no way in knowing, or understanding, what the obstacles which have been placed in front of the African Americans in the United States. I can form my opinions, but I can’t place myself in the very shoes you walk in.
I don’t believe Dr. King was asking that. I believe he was asking that all doors be unlocked and those willing to work for it and willing to sacrifice should be able to turn the knob and open it.
Again, I take things from what I learn and what I feel the message was from Dr. King. Dr. King didn’t want our country to be taken care of, he wanted the opportunity for all of us to achieve what we can without hinderance, bias or racism.
I believe we should remember that message maybe more now than ever before.
If you see me say. “Hey!”
Dee McLelland is Publisher of the Coastal Courier and the Bryan County News.